Ethnic Background FAQs

What Parents need to know about the collection of ethnic background data on pupils in schools

WHY ARE SCHOOLS COLLECTING THIS INFORMATION?  

Schools have collected information on the ethnic background of their pupils since 1990.  This is one element of data that schools must report as a statutory requirement to the Department for Education and Skills (DfE).  This is reported through the Pupil Level Annual Schools’ Census (PLASC) each January.

SURELY SCHOOLS ALREADY HAVE THIS INFORMTION?

The ethnic background categories used in the past have been changed.  The new categories are based on those used in the 2001 national population Census.

IS THIS EXERCISE ONLY FOR ETHNIC MINORITY GROUPS?

This is for all pupils.  Everyone belongs to an ethnic group.  Data can bring to light surprising results about how different groups perform and achieve.  Ethnic monitoring can help schools, local education authorities and government identify the needs of all pupils, whatever their ethnic background, and make sure they receive the support they need to achieve their full potential.  Without effective ethnic monitoring on a local and national basis, the particular needs of any group could remain unknown.

WHO WILL USE THIS INFORMATION?

Schools and Local Education Authorities will use the information to find out whether particular ethnic groups are not achieving as well as they might and whether additional support is needed.  The DfE needs information to help them plan and allocate resources to raise standards of all pupils.  It also helps the DfE to see how far schools and local education authorities are successfully meeting the needs of particular groups of pupils.  There is evidence from research that some ethnic groups do not do as well as others and that patterns of achievement vary between boys and girls.  Accurate national information will help to keep track of changing patterns in education, helping the Department to identify trends and plan more effectively.

WHO ELSE WILL HAVE ACCESS TO INFOMATION ABOUT MY CHILD?

Schools, local education authorities and the DfE are all bound by the Data Protection Act.  This means that they cannot reveal information held on your child to a third party.  Safeguards are in place to make sure that it will not be possible to identify individual pupils in any published statistical data.

HOW WILL THE INFORMATION BE USED?

Analysing this information can help schools to monitor and improve their own practices and also celebrate the success achieved by their pupils.

Schools will be able to use this information to:

  • see how well different groups perform in examinations;
  • monitor exclusions and attendance to make sure that no single group is missing out on school;
  • make sure that they are treating all pupils fairly.

DO I HAVE TO GIVE THIS INFORMATION EVERY YEAR?

No.  This information is usually collected when children start school.  The new computerised records mean that it should not be necessary to ask for it again.  On this occasion, all schools are collecting the information in order to introduce the new categories from the DfE.  From time to time you may be asked to check the information for accuracy.  This will provide you with an opportunity to change the entry if you wish.  You can also ask to see the personal data the school holds at any time and ask for information on ethnic background to be removed or changed.

WHY HAS MY CHILD’S SCHOOL ASKED HIM/HER TO PROVIDE THIS INFORMATION?

The Information Commissioner (formerly the Data Protection Registrar) has advised that young people aged 11-15 are mature enough to decide their own ethnic identity.  You may wish to discuss the issues raised in this leaflet with your child before they complete the form.  Young people aged 16 and over can make their own decision.  Individuals have the right to ask to see the personal data the school holds on them and ask for information on ethnic background to be removed or changed

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